Thursday, 28 April 2011

Literary Blog Hop April 28- May 1

Literary Blog Hop

Woohoo, the Blog Hop's back! This is all very exciting stuff! Hosted, as ever, by the fabulous The Blue Bookcase, this fortnight they ask:

Discuss your thoughts on sentimentality in literature. When is emotion in literature effective, and when is it superfluous? Use examples.

First of all, I really really recommend that you read Ingrid's answer to this question back at the host site, because it is pretty awesome and mine is going to be less highbrow, mainly because I'm scared of the question because it sounds like an essay question, and I don't want to answer them anymore! But I'll try it my way anyway.

I basically think that there is a difference between sentimentality and emotion (when in doubt, challenge the question...) in that sentimentality is often irritating and hinders at least my enjoyment of a novel, whereas emotion, used correctly, can be the most wonderful thing about a novel. I think most important of all is how a novel makes you feel, and if the author tries too hard to make you feel a certain way, then I end up feeling a little cold, whereas if what the characters are going through affects you because it is so well written, and contains just the right amount of pathos, then that is just perfect, and I will pretty much want to marry that book!

So, examples. Ingrid used the example of Lady Chatterley's Lover, and I would extend that to include D H Lawrence's novels in general- he knows exactly the right words to use to tug on at least my emotions, and I am always left a little breathtaken by the beauty and emotional depth of his writing, something which he manages without ever becoming too over the top or deliberately playing to the most base of our feelings. This is possibly not the best example to use though, since I know that certain people *ahem* Frances *ahem* really really dislike old DH and think he's basically a big drip. But each to their own I suppose!

I've been trying to think of an author who succumbs to sentimentality, and I have to say I'm struggling. I know I've experienced it before though, just, it seems, not for a long time. But I know exactly what it's like. It's where the characters go through emotions that have been so heightened by the author that they become ridiculous, and then have no effect on the reader at all (other than noting how ridiculous they are). I would imagine that this is a really easy trap to fall into, but that doesn't make it any more pleasant to read, and doesn't reveal anything about the human condition, which is something that I consider it really important for literature to do.

So authors, please avoid the trap of sentimentality, and try to keep it real- history will appreciate you for it, and I will thank you kindly for it.


  1. I was about to go ERGH LAWRENCE MAKES ME WANT TO VOM and then I saw that you had actually written of my Lawrence hate!

  2. HA! I know that I can't say anything about Lawrence ever without also going 'But Frances hates him!' I gotta say though, read Lady Chatterley's Lover when you're depressed, and you'll be going 'omg, I actually *am* Lady C... Clearly I just need to get laid!

  3. If a story or characters are overly sentimental in a way that hurts the story, I think that's just the mark of either an untalented or lazy author. They're not sure how to effectively display and create emotion, so they go over the top.

  4. Good answer. I agree that sentimentality is usually a put on whereas emotion is the real thing.

  5. Great response! There are quite a few books I'd like to marry, too. Except that I'm already married. I have lots of affairs with books, though. Does that count?

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm glad to find your blog through the hop.--Miss GOP

  6. I'm intrigued by my visceral response to this question (which seems to be widespread). How does the wording of this question evoke such terror?

    Your response is nicely worded. Thank you.

    Here is my response: Readerbuzz: The Queen Died and the King Died.

  7. its the tugging on the heartstrings, it must be done in a way that you don't realise that's whats happening.

  8. I was a little scared of the question as well. I talk about Romantic poetry in my post, and I see Lawerence as related to that tradition. Good answer.

    Check out my hop here.

  9. Great answer! It seems like sentimentality is one of those "I know it when I see it" things that is difficult to pin down. I actually took a class on emotion in literature last year, so the ideas we discussed there were generally what I pulled from when I wrote my answer ... though I have to say I was flattered when you said it was "highbrow". :)